Making our shorelines resilient

shore line with sea wall April 2022 – Natural shorelines are dynamic and ever-changing. Sometimes these changes are too slow to be noticed and sometimes they are fast and dramatic, such as after major hurricanes and floods. With encroaching development, many shorelines are restricted and have often been “hardened” to prevent the natural changes in the shoreline that could impact the now relatively static buildings, roads, and other infrastructure of the developed lands. Complicating all of this is the increasing rate of sea level rise over time.

Luckily, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) is working on regional cooperation and coordination to address these issues. The TBRPC convenes a Resilient Shorelines and Spaces (RSS) workgroup. Since forming in October 2019, the RSS workgroup has met monthly. The members include local government staff, federal and state agency experts, academic researchers, private consultants, environmental organizations, and multi-jurisdictional organizations that bring together expertise in environmental ecology, shoreline engineering, permitting, policy, and planning.

The purpose of the workgroup is to define data, information needs, strategies for consideration for a Regional Action Plan, and develop recommendations and guidance documents for the Coalition to help local governments become more resilient to sea level rise, flooding, erosion, reduce wetland losses, and reduce impacts to water utilities.

Currently, the workgroup is reviewing scientific data, engineering practices and policies related to shoreline protection. The group is assessing seawall design standards, policies, and minimum heights for consideration to future sea level rise and will develop guidance on shoreline protection and adaption strategies to support community resiliency. The workgroup collects input from local governments and will develop a list of priorities to address such matters as seawall standards and policy, use of living shorelines, construction, green and open space, drainage, wetlands, and environmental restoration.  Advisory documents and a draft model ordinance focused on making shorelines more resistant to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change will soon be available and are sure to be important tools and reference materials for local governments.

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